Our team continues to be here for you and your cherished pets. We are OPEN and are now able to provide a wide range of services. To learn more about the changes we have implemented in response to COVID-19 and what to expect during your next visit, click here.

Chinese Herbal Medicine

What is herbal medicine?

Herbal medicine is generally considered to be the use of plant materials to treat illness and promote health. Herbal medicines are important tools for healing in every culture. For instance, much of what we call Western Herbalism has its foundation in Europe, indigenous cultures in the America’s have rich understandings of their native healing plants, and many of us use herbs borrowed from the Ayurvedic medicines of India. Many of our pharmaceutical treatments have their origins in naturally occurring molecules. 

At Full Circle Veterinary Alternatives, we focus primarily on Traditional Chinese Veterinary herbal medicine, although we may use some Western and Aryuvedic herbs from time to time.    

What is Chinese Veterinary Herbal Medicine?

Traditional Chinese Veterinary herbal medicine is a body of medical knowledge on the use of the plant, animal and mineral components for treating the diseases of animals that are at least 2000 years old. Over the centuries, healers learned different ways to prepare and combine herbs to create unique and powerful medicines. 

Chinese Herbal formulas usually contain multiple herbs and follow a general pattern where there is a primary herb, called the Emperor or King, that has the most significant action of the formula addressing the primary Chinese medicine patterns or causes of disease. This herb is supported by Minister herbs, who assist or enhance the desired actions of the Emperor herb. The next category is the Assistant herbs, which have three roles. First, they treat patterns of illness or complications that are often associated with the primary diagnosis. Secondly, they can suppress any toxic or extreme activities of the Emperor or Minister herbs and finally, they can counteract certain qualities of the formula to create a more balanced formula. For instance, if the main actions are all very cooling, some warm herbs may be added. The final category of herbs is called messenger or transporter herbs. They are the part of the formula that directs the actions to the appropriate diseased areas or organs within the body.

What conditions can Chinese Veterinary Herbal Medicine be used to treat?

Because Chinese Medicine is a complete medical system, there are herbal medicines to treat nearly any imbalance; however, there are situations where pharmaceuticals are more suited, or a combination of herbs and pharmaceuticals gives a superior outcome.  

At Full Circle, we routinely use herbal medicines in many situations. Chronic kidney disease, which might be called Kidney QI, Yin and/or Yang deficiency in Chinese veterinary medicine, often responds well to several formulas.   

Many cancers, like mast cell tumours, hemangiosarcomas, bladder tumours and anal carcinomas, can be slowed significantly by adding herbal formulas. Other patients who may be receiving chemotherapy, could benefit from herbal protocols to strengthen the impact of their chemotherapy and deal with the effects of the drugs.

Herbs for skin conditions can be extremely nutritive, anti-inflammatory and, in some cases, antibacterial. Gastrointestinal illness can benefit from herbal formulas to combat nausea and improve digestion. Many of our patients at Full Circle Veterinary Alternatives seek assistance for back pain, lameness or arthritic problems. Herbal medicine can augment the outcomes for these patients as well.

Are herbal medicines safe?


Despite having significant physiologic impacts, Chinese herbal medicines have far fewer side effects than pharmaceutical drugs. It is in part because the formulas are designed to include herbs that ameliorate side effects that might be common if an individual herb were used alone. There are, however, herbs that should not be used with pregnant animals and some herbs that, if mixed with certain minerals or vitamins as the interaction, lessen the impact of both.  

The most common unintended effect of a prescribed herbal formula would be soft stools or vomiting. These signs should resolve quickly on stopping the herbal formula, and our Full Circle Veterinary Alternatives veterinarian will advise you on a formula or dose change.  

Can my dog or cat safely take herbs with conventional drugs?

Most traditional herbal veterinary formulas can be safely used with conventional pharmaceutical treatments. There are a few individual herbs and formulas that have contraindications with specific procedures or drugs. Caution is advised when using herbs and pharmaceuticals with similar actions as additive effects could occur, leading to an overdose. 

Our veterinarians consider a patient’s current drug therapy when selecting herbal formulas to ensure your pet’s safety.  

How are herbal formulas given to my dog or cat?

Herbal formulas can be prepared in a number of ways. One technique is to take relatively unprocessed dried herbs and create decoctions (Tang) or teas by steeping or boiling the herbs in- water. Whole dried herbs can also be ground into a powder (san) and fed on food or encapsulated and given as a capsule by mouth.

Most formulations used at Full Circle Veterinary Alternatives are extract granules that represent several extractions of active ingredients in water, which are then evaporated to leave a powder that is highly concentrated. This powder can be formed into tablets, encapsulated or used loosely as an additive to food or treats.  

Some herbal formulas are designed to be used topically and are in the form of pastes. Occasionally, we may also use alcohol-based tinctures topically or orally. When used orally, we recommend techniques to reduce the alcohol content before administering it to a pet.   

If you have any questions, please give us a call at 902.461.0951



halloween puppy

Fun Halloween Safety Tips for Pets

Treats for everyone! Many human treats on Halloween are toxic to pets.

Read More
See All Articles

COVID-19: Additional measures we are taking

Dear Clients,

Due to the close contact that our work requires, we have taken additional measures to protect you and our team while providing care for your furry family members.

The following changes are effective as of Monday, March 23, 2020:

1. We are currently operating a "closed waiting room" policy to protect our clients and staff. When you arrive, please remain in your vehicle and use your cell phone to call us at 902.461.0951. We will take a history of your pet over the phone, and bring your pet into the clinic for an examination with the veterinarian. Once the examination is finished, we will call to discuss our recommended treatment plan over the phone and then return to your vehicle with your pet. Please ensure your pet has a properly fitted collar or is in a secure carrier. Please remove any additional clothing or blankets prior to our staff handling our patients to minimize risk to our team.

2. We are still OPEN but are now working in two shifts with reduced hours, reduced staff numbers and a need to close for extensive cleaning between shifts. Tuesday to Friday 10:00 am - 6:00 pm

3. If you are ordering food or medications, please allow 2-4 business days as our suppliers are dealing with increased demand and are trying to fill orders as quickly as possible. We will advise you as soon as your order arrives. Please call us when you arrive to pick up your order, but do not enter the hospital. Our staff will bring your order to your car and take payment over the phone. You can also use our online store and have your food delivered directly to your home. To sign up for the online store, visit our website.

4. For the time being, we are not accepting cash as payment. Credit cards and debit card payments are still available.

Online consultations are now available! If you wish to connect with a veterinarian via message, phone or video, visit our website and follow the "Online Consultation" link.

Following the recommendations of our government and medical experts, we are doing our best to practice social distancing within the constraints of our roles. As such, we have taken measures to avoid both contracting and facilitating the spread of this virus. You may see our team members wearing additional protective gear when interacting with our clients and patients.

Thank you for helping us be diligent for everyone's safety. As we have heard from all levels of government, the situation is fluid and any updates will be provided as changes occur.

- Your dedicated team at Full Circle Veterinary Alternatives Inc.